The Eisenwerke Gaggenau “MF” (1878 to 1900) by Michael Flürscheim

In this article I discuss what is possibly Germany’s oldest production air pistol and its inventor. We will discover how he built a significant business which is still in operation today, his social ideologies and his demise. We also discover that some of Germany’s most influential firearms designers and weapons of the 20th century owe their roots to this man. Get yourself a nice drink and get comfy as this is going to be a long read…

Michael Flürscheim (1844 – 1912)

Michael Flürscheim was born on January 27th 1844 in Frankfurt, Germany to a wealthy Jewish merchant family. He was primarily an economist and a Georgist. [1][2]

Georgism, geoism or geonomics, is an economic philosophy that was popularised by Henry George (1839-1897), an American political economist, journalist and philosopher. The principle of Georgism is that people own what they create but natural resources and common opportunities would be owned in common by individuals in a community rather than by titleholders. Thus rent accrued on a factory or business, for example, could be used to eliminate or reduce existing taxation of individual income. [3][4]

banker and businessman

Flürscheim and Korwan’s Automatic Gas Lighting Patent

Flürscheim left school at the age of 16 and started a career in economics at Deutsche Effekten- und Wechselbank, his uncle’s (Ludwig Arnold Hahn) well-known banking and exchange house. Four years later in 1864, Flürscheim left Deutsche Effekten- und Wechselbank and moved to Berlin where he continued to work in a similar role. Towards the end of 1864, he accepted a role in Paris in a stock-brokerage and exchange firm. In 1867, Flürscheim moved to New York, America. It is not known to the author why Flürscheim moved to New York, only that during his time there, he learnt about wholesale manufacturing and importation. Whilst in New York, Flürscheim also jointly applied for a patent along with Franz Korwan of Manheim, Germany for “Improvement in Automatic Gas-Lighting Apparatus”. The purpose of this patent was to avoid the lighting of large numbers street lanterns by hand. Perhaps Flürscheim decided he wanted to be the master of his own destiny rather than continue working for financial institutions. In 1872, after the Franco-Prussian war, he returned to Frankfurt where he was heavily involved in the editing and publishing of the “American News” which was produced for the benefit of Americans living in Germany. [1][5][6]

The Eisenwerke Gaggenau Factory circa 1891

On February 1st 1873, Flürscheim, along with his new business partner Franz Korwan, purchased Gaggenau Hammerwerk from Louis Klehe along with its 40 employees for 155,000 florins or approximately £1.3m, €1.5m or $1.6m. Originally established in 1683, Gaggenau Hammerwerk, or Gaggenau “hammer works”, produced wrought iron, nails and agricultural machinery such as ploughs. The company name was changed to “Korwan und Flürscheim Eisenwerke Gaggenau bei Rastatt” or “Korwan and Flürscheim Ironworks Gaggenau in Rastatt”. [7]

On March 11th 1873, their patent was granted for “Improvement in Automatic Gas-Lighting Apparatus”, U.S. Patent 136,739. The patent was further registered in many countries by agents appointed by Korwan and Flürscheim. It would appear that Korwan and Flürscheim may have purchased Gaggenau Hammerwerk in order to produce their patented street gas lanterns. Unfortunately, later during that first year, Korwan died due to illness. [8][9][10]

During its early years, Flürscheim’s business produced gas regulators, iron structures, bridges, railings and flour mills. [8]

first German air pistol

The Eisenwerke Gaggenau “MF” Air Pistol

Flürscheim began production of his first, and possibly only air pistol or “luftpistole” in 1878. He called it the “MF” which is considered to be conceived from his initials. Flürscheim applied for a patent to protect his design on July 3rd, 1878 and it was issued on February 18th, 1879. The patent, numbered 3690, was titled “Neuerungen an Luftpistolen” or “Improvements to Air Pistols”. The patent described a cylinder-in-grip spring air pistol with a separate cocking handle and bolt-action breech. [11]

Theodor Bergmann (1850-1931)

In 1880, at the age of 29, Theodor Bergmann joined the business as a director which had now grown to 150 employees. Previously a partner at a stove factory in Konstanz, Bergmann helped expand the services of the business to include enamelling, stamping, nickel plating, book printing and carpentry. An art foundry was also established and Badenia bicycles were introduced as a new product line. The business was very successful and won many international awards. [12]

Bergmann was made a partner of the business in 1884 and the company name was changed to “Eisenwerke Gaggenau, Flürscheim und Bergmann”. Perhaps this was due to the success of the business under Bergmann’s directorship or maybe he invested considerably into the business financially. Certainly from 1884 Flürscheim, now 41, was becoming more distracted by his ideology of political and social reform leaving Bergmann to manage the business. [12]

automobiles and social reform

Scientific American – August 22nd 1874

By 1886, the company had grown to over 600 employees and the business ventured into the manufacture of automobiles. Flürscheim was no stranger to the idea of automobiles as he had written a letter which was published in Scientific American on August 22nd, 1874, setting out his idea for a “Fireless Locomotive System”. His idea was to use the principle of the fireless locomotive for “coaches, cabs and private vehicles” where such vehicles could be charged with hot water at numerous filling stations to enable journeys of up to 7 miles. [12][13]

Flürscheim was a stout advocate for social reform and during his ownership of Eisenwerke Gaggenau, he introduced various social schemes for his employees including health insurance, a provident fund, a worker’s savings bank, a cooperative, a heated dining building, a trade association, a gymnastics club, a vocational school and houses for his employees. [8]

In 1888, Eisenwerke Gaggenau received large orders for enamelled advertising signs for the global companies Stollwerck, Maggi, Odol, Suchard and Tobler. The business soon became a public limited company with Flürscheim and Bergmann receiving one million German Goldmarks each. With over 1000 employees, the company had become one of the largest and most renowned hardware manufacturers in the Grand Duchy of Baden with a catalogue of over 200 pages. It occupied 60,000 square meters, had over 500 machines and owned more than 100 patents. Flürscheim resigned from Eisenwerke Gaggenau as he was now fully committed to social reform and was no longer able to devote time to the company. This left Bergmann in sole control. Flürscheim invested some of his finances in property in order to fund projects of land reform and a cooperative movement through their ongoing revenue generation. [12][14]

On leaving Eisenwerke Gaggenau, Flürscheim embarked on a lecture tour of Germany and neighbouring countries. In a short time, he acquired a comprehensive understanding of economics which enabled him to engage with respected scholars. By October 1888, Flürscheim had around one hundred followers and established the “Federation of German Land Tenure Reform” in his home town of Frankfurt. It was financed through donations from Flürscheim and other famous people such as Ernst Abbe, the founder of the Zeiss Foundation. [12]

Germany’s “Henry George”

Through his numerous lecturing tours of Germany, France, Italy and England, Flürscheim became known as “Germany’s Henry George”. He continued to try to make his dream a reality for ten years, but country after country his attempts were doomed to failure. When his final attempt to establish a commodity exchange bank in New Zealand failed, he moved with his second wife and family to California. Here, in 1909, he wrote a book called “Not in Abundance” and shortly after completion, he suffered a stroke and was ordered not to write again by his doctor. Later that year he moved to Castagnola in Switzerland and then in 1911, to Berlin. He died a year later on April 24th, 1912. [12][14]

Flürscheim had six children by two women. His son, Bernhard Flürscheim was a chemist in England and his grandson, Dr Charles Flürscheim, had a pioneering career as a mechanical and electrical engineer. During World War II, Charles designed electrical systems that improved the safety of British military aircraft. After World War II he contributed to electrical and nuclear power station research. His high-voltage circuit breakers are still in use in power stations throughout the world today. [1][15]

Michael Flürscheim’s MF air pistol

It is possible that the MF was the only pistol that Flürscheim produced and that Bergmann was responsible for further developing the line of airguns and firearms that were later produced by Eisenwerke Gaggenau. In 1884, the year that Bergmann became joint partner in the company, Bergmann licensed the rights to manufacture the Haviland and Gunn combined cartridge and air rifle design from Henry Quackenbush. This design had not been specifically patented by either Haviland and Gunn nor Quackenbush. Perhaps quite underhandedly, Bergmann took advantage of this and raised, along with Flürscheim, his own patent, No. 4413, in Great Britain on March 29th 1886. It wasn’t until a year later that Quackenbush filed his own patent for this design in the U.S. on March 10th 1887! Perhaps Quackenbush was worried by Eisenwerke Gaggenau’s success and the presence of their airguns in the U.S. [16][17][18][19]

Eisenwerke Gaggenau continued to grow under Bergmann’s leadership and by 1891 they were  producing air pistols and air rifles along with firearms for the hunting and military sectors. To complement their catalogue of firearms, Eisenwerke Gaggenau were also producing barrels and reloading tools. [16]

self-loading cartridge pistol

On April 20th 1892, Eisenwerke Gaggenau and Otto Brauswetter, a Hungarian watchmaker (yes, a watchmaker!), were granted a patent for a self-loading cartridge pistol. It is not known why Bergmann chose to invest with Brauswetter but he must have seen potential in the design. [16]

Otto Brauswetter’s Self-loading Pistol

However, within a year of receiving the patent, Bergmann left Eisenwerke Gaggenau before it had produced any of the self-loading pistols. One reference suggests that he may have been forced to resign through poor business performance as no dividends had been paid to the shareholders. Another suggests he left in order to concentrate on the development of the self-loading pistol. Perhaps it was due in part to both.

Bergmann and perhaps his brother Joseph, established a new business called Bergmann-Industriewerke in the Ottenauer district of Gaggenau. This most likely happened in about 1894.  But prior to this, Bergmann was granted a patent in his name for British Patent 11,509 “Improvements in or connected with Breech Loading Small Arms” on November 4th 1893 indicating that Bergmann had left Eisenwerke Gaggenau that year if not earlier. [12][20]

Initially, Bergmann’s new business produced many of the items that were manufactured by Eisenwerke Gaggenau. No doubt these were known to Bergmann to be those that were the most lucrative. As part of the separation from Eisenwerke Gaggenau, Bergmann managed to retain the rights to the MF and Brauswetter’s patents. He may also have obtained the rights to other patents or designs as none of the air pistols designed prior to Bergmann leaving the company were listed by Eisenwerke Gaggenau anymore. It is considered that Bergmann may have continued manufacturing, or at least subcontracted the manufacture of the MF up until the early 20th century according to catalogues of the period. [12][16][21]

the Schmeisser dynasty

Bergmann employed Louis Schmeisser to refine Brauswetter’s design and it would seem no more was heard of Brauswetter. The pistol, intended for the Swiss military, proved to be unreliable in trials and was never a commercial success. However, Schmeisser continued to refine the design and develop the Bergmann No. 1. A patent for which Schmeisser was granted in 1895 and assigned to Bergmann. Following the Bergmann No.1, Bergmann continued to receive patents relating to pistol designs on an almost yearly basis until 1921. However, these were not created by Louis for he had left Bergmann in or before 1906 to work for Rheinische Metallwaren und Maschinenfabrik. [22][23][24]

Readers of my articles may have heard of both the Bergmann and Schmeisser names before from my Haenel article which detailed the life of the famous Hugo Schmeisser, son of Louis, who was responsible for the design and development of many of Nazi Germany’s iconic assault rifles and later, the Russian AK-47. [25]

One last word about Bergmann that might be of interest is that he also manufactured automobiles. However, he sold his automobile interests to Karl Benz in 1910 which went on to become the famous Mercedes-Benz of today. [23]

After 1894, Eisenwerke Gaggenau continued to manufacture airguns up until at least 1930 offering 21 air rifles and 4 air pistols. The MF and other pistols that were developed prior to Bergmann leaving the business were no longer offered by Eisenwerke Gaggenau. Production probably stopped at the start of World War II when the business was partially converted for the production of military equipment. On September 10th 1944, the city was bombed by the Allies and most of the factories were destroyed. Despite the destruction of the factories, the business survived and it has become one of the largest manufacturers of built-in kitchen appliances in Germany. Selling to fifty countries around the world, it is currently known as “Gaggenau”. [8][21][26]

I have merely scraped the surface of the life of Michael Flürscheim. The references at the end of the article provide a far more detailed account of his life and his achievements. They are very much worth a read should you be interested. Also worth reading is the transcript of the 1993 interview of Dr Charles Flürscheim. Especially if you are of an engineering background.

the French connection

Flürscheim’s patent, German Patent No. 3960 “Neuerungen an Luftpistolen” or “Improvements to Air Pistols”, July 3rd 1878, actually describes two pistol designs. The first, of which there are no known examples and perhaps never made it to the production line, houses the piston and mainspring in a traditional compression tube mounted horizontally on top of the grip. In this design, the barrel is locked and sealed by a threaded collar with thumb lever. Rotating the lever would retract the collar and release the barrel. The barrel was attached to a piston push rod via a hinge. Thus, by turning the barrel perpendicular to the rod, the barrel would form a handle to make cocking easier. The piston would be pushed towards the rear of the pistol against the mainspring and held in position by the trigger sear. A dart or pellet would be loaded into the barrel which would then be returned back to the firing position. Finally, the barrel would be locked and sealed by rotating the threaded collar back over the barrel. [11]

Flürscheim’s copy of the Johnson and Bye “Champion”

This design is far from original though. Iver Johnson and Martin Bye, of Worcester in Massachusetts, designed an almost identical pistol which was patented in 1876. That’s two years before Flürscheim’s patent. Titled “Improvement in Spring Air-Pistols”, U.S. Patent 176,003, April 11th 1876, Johnson and Bye called it the Champion. A full article Jimmie Dee’s article about Iver Johnson, Martin Bye and the Champion can be found here. It is cocked in the same manner as Flürscheim’s with a barrel that pivoted on the end of a cocking rod to form a handle. However, instead of a collar, the barrel was held in place by a spring that was hidden in the end of the cocking rod. The force of the spring pulled the cocking rod and thus the barrel into a recess on the top of the compression chamber. A remarkably simple and elegant design. It is possible that the spring method of locking the barrel in place proved to be unreliable as known production examples show a collar with thumb lever was actually used. This would indicate that Flürscheim’s patent was a direct copy of an actual pistol rather than taken from the patent drawings of Johnson and Bye. It’s also known that the Champion was available in Europe at the time of Flürscheim’s “invention”. It was either available for sale directly or as the Joseph Célestin Dumonthier copy from France. [27][21]

Flürscheim’s Second Design – the “MF” Pistol

The second pistol described in Flürscheim’s patent did make it to production as the Eisenwerke Gaggenau “MF”. This design was considerably different to the first in that the compression chamber, piston and mainspring were housed in the grip. This gave the design a sleek, elegant and realistic appearance without the common bulky compression tube usually mounted horizontally on top of the grip. The pistol is cocked by attaching a cocking aid to the bottom of the piston rod and pulling until the piston is held back by the trigger sear. The design also included a bolt-action breech seal which also doubled as the transfer port between the compression tube and the barrel. The bolt is a hollow tube with a hole drilled into the side. When the bolt is rotated into its locked and closed position, the hole in the side of the bolt aligns with a hole in the top of the compression chamber. It’s a remarkably simple design with very few parts.

The Haviland and Gunn Patent Drawings

Just like his first design, Flürscheim appears to have copied from at least one prior design as the MF is remarkably similar to the pistol designed by Benjamin Haviland and George Peck Gunn of Herkimer, New York. Haviland and Gunn were the first to develop a pistol that incorporated a compression chamber in its grip. They were granted U.S. Patent 126,954, “Improvement in Toy-Pistols” on May 21st 1872. Interestingly, the pistol that was manufactured was quite different from that illustrated in the patent and was called the “Morse”. The production model had a cocking rod that protruded out of the bottom of the grip whereas the patent describes a cocking rod that protrudes out of the top of the pistol and would be pushed down to compress the spring via the piston head. Flürscheim’s design was so similar to Haviland and Gunn’s that he either had one of their pistols or he drew inspiration from advertisements or the patent itself. A full Jimmie Dee’s article about the Haviland and Gunn “Morse” air pistol can be found here. [28][29]

the first break-barrel airgun

The First Break Barrel Airgun

Trying not to digress too much, it really is worth mentioning that Haviland and Gunn were the inventors of the break-barrel airgun where the barrel is used as a lever to compress the mainspring. Their U.S. Patent 113,766, “Improvement in Parlor Air-Pistols”, was granted on April 18th 1871 and the concept is still used by today’s break-barrel air pistols and rifles. They were probably the most influential inventors in the history of spring airguns. [17][30]

The Walker Bolt-Action Breech Seal

The distinguishing difference between the MF and the Haviland and Gunn cylinder-in-grip designs is that the MF uses a bolt mechanism to seal the breech and act as a transfer port between the compression chamber and the barrel. The Haviland and Gunn used a pin-seal that is commonly used in pop-out style pistols. The only other air pistol of the era to use a bolt style breech seal was the Eureka of Bedford and Walker. Walker specifically described his breech bolt invention in U.S. Patent 179,984, “Improvement in Spring Air-Pistols”, July 18th 1876. It is known that the Eureka was available in Europe as it was copied in France by C. Martinier-Collin. However, this copy is was manufactured between 1884 and 1894 and thus would not have been available for Flürscheim to gain inspiration from. [31][21]

Flürscheim’s Breech Bolt

Whilst it is conceivable that Flürscheim may have obtained the bolt idea from the Eureka, his design is quite different. The bolt on the Eureka is merely an improved pin seal in that it pushes the projectile into the barrel beyond the transfer port and seals the breech. I say improved because unlike a conventional pin seal, the bolt was an integral part of the pistol and was unlikely to be lost unless disassembled. With the transfer port at the very rear of the MF, the bolt had to be hollow to allow the passage of air from the compression chamber to the projectile and barrel.

novel breech bolt design

At first, I assumed that the bolt was a tube capped at one end by a threaded knob. On closer inspection I noticed that the tube is drilled to just two-thirds the length of the bolt, just past the side port. The other end is drilled and threaded to accept a knob with a bulkhead between the two sections. However, although many other examples are also threaded at the end of the bolt, they do not have a knob fitted. I suspect that in this example, the knob has been added by a previous owner who may have thought it improved the aesthetics of the design. Something which I am inclined to agree with.

The bolt is also tapered with the wider end at the rear. This is probably an attempt to form an air seal around the bolt when in the forward and closed position. However, the seal isn’t particularly good. The seal at the breech is formed by a small recess into which the bolt locates. The hole in the top of the compression chamber is recessed. Perhaps a small leather seal would be fitted here in order to form an air seal between the bolt and the compression chamber.

The grooved piston to catch the sear. Also note the position of the trigger adjustment screw is not where the screw was placed on the production model.

In his patented design, Flürscheim tried to make one further improvement over the Haviland and Gunn design by placing a groove around the piston head for the trigger sear to latch on. The MF was fitted with a leather piston seal and so this groove may have been considered more secure than the leather washer for holding the piston back. I am aware of one example with a small groove machined into the piston head but it wasn’t enough for the sear lever to engage with. So far, all other examples that I am aware of do not have a groove. I can only assume that this feature never made it from prototype to production. Perhaps it did not work out as well as expected or perhaps the reduction in piston stroke limited the power of the pistol too much.

So, after all, it appears that Flürscheim did develop two novel improvements over prior designs rather than patent exact copies that had not been previously patented in Germany.

There is another pistol that looks remarkably similar to the MF. It has the same decorative floral pattern and chequered grips but it doesn’t have a breech bolt. Instead it would have used a pin seal in the same manner as Haviland and Gunn’s pistol. This pistol is listed in John Griffith’s encyclopedia as the “MF derivative” and suggests that it may have followed the MF. It is also conceivable that this isn’t a derivative but the forerunner of the MF. Only one example is known to exist of this pistol. [21]

ornate floral decoration

The MF is constructed from a single casting of iron with ornate floral decoration and chequered grip. The decoration was part of the casting rather than carved out afterwards. The compression tube, breech, bolt guide, barrel and trigger slot were all machined out. The 155mm (6.1in) .177 smoothbore barrel and bolt guide were probably drilled out as one and the breech milled out afterwards. The rear sight was also part of the casting whereas the foresight was attached separately. Both sights are non-adjustable. The trigger is adjustable and consists of a spring-loaded two-part trigger and sear arrangement. A trigger guard is fitted to prevent accidental firing of the pistol.

The components of Flürscheim’s MF pistol

The MF was supplied in a wooden box with a catch rather than the lock that has been retrospectively fitted to this example. The box was lined and fitted with a wooden block drilled to hold six darts which were also supplied when purchased. Also supplied was a simple screwdriver formed from a rod with a looped handle for adjusting the trigger. The pistol was available in nickel-plated and black lacquered finishes. The black lacquered variants are much rarer than nickel-plated pistols. [21]

An Eisenwerke Gaggenau MF pistol with cocking aid and darts in a warped but original wooden case

Depending on the model, a separate cocking handle was also provided as indicated in Flürscheim’s patent. Later models replaced the separate cocking handle with a T-bar that was screwed onto the end of the cocking rod. The separate cocking handle could either be used in one hand with the pistol in the other or it could be attached to a table or other surface via a screw through a countersunk hole in the tool. This would allow the owner to use both hands to pull the pistol and thus cock the piston. [21]

The cocking tool served three purposes in all. The first as the cocking aid. Secondly it could be used as an extractor for removing darts from a target board. Finally, it served as a tool for the removal of the compression chamber cap. The two pins on the tool fit into the holes in the cap enabling it to be unscrewed from the frame of the pistol.

Cocking aid attached to the exposed ball end of the piston rod

Removal of the cap allows the piston with its attached rod and the mainspring to be extracted. The mainspring is a flat section wound compression spring of the type used by Pope, Quackenbush and other manufacturers of the era. The cap is precisely finished so that it fits flush with the base of the grip when fully screwed in. It is oval in shape and each cap must have been hand finished for each pistol.

fitter’s stamps

Stamp marks that might indicate parts were individually fitted for a specific frame

The cap, bolt and breech are all stamped with the letter “L”. Further disassembly of the pistol showed that the trigger guard and sear lever are also stamped with the letter “L” but there is no stamp on the trigger blade. I believe that this letter stamp may indicate that each part was made specifically to fit that particular frame. I am aware of two T-bar handled MF air pistols that are stamped in a similar manner. One with “D” and the other with “22” which would appear to corroborate my theory.

Piston and remains of leather seal

The piston and cocking rod appear to be constructed from two parts. The piston end of the rod is hammered causing it to expand and remain in place via friction only. There are remnants of a leather sealing washer on the head of the piston which would have been attached using two rivets or pins. The heads of the rivets show signs that they too have been hammered causing the head to expand. This would also have helped to hold the leather washer in place. The rivets, or pins, are probably tapered such that when hammered, they become firmly wedged in place. Correctly fitting a new leather seal could be a tricky ordeal and possibly cause more damage than good. Alternatively, a new leather seal could be glued in place as the heads of the pins are almost flush with the head of the piston. Perhaps some hot melt glue would be sufficient and can be removed easily if necessary without causing any damage.

Piston, piston rod and stamp mark

The head of the piston in this example is stamped with a “Y” and the shaft of the cocking rod with a “3”. These parts are probably interchangeable between pistols as the leather washer would account for varying tolerances of fit. Also, the cocking rod was hammered into place implying exact fit was also of less importance. This could explain why these stamps do not match the others found on this pistol.

There are no other markings which is consistent with other examples of these pistols. However, some variants are known to be marked with “Patent” on the right hand side of the octagonal breech and “Brevet S.G.D.G.” on the left hand side. “Brevet S.G.D.G.” meaning “Breveté Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement” or “Patented without guarantee of the government.” This could indicate some were manufactured for the French or Belgium markets. Some other variants may have “Patent” stamped on the left hand side according to catalogue adverts from about 1890. It is intriguing that none are stamped with actual patent numbers. Conceivably, pistols without any patent marks could have been manufactured prior to the patent issue date. [21][32]

dare devil dinkum

Dating of the variants is quite difficult as documented information is scarce. It is thought that the MF pistol with separate cocking aid was available from 1878 when the patent was filed and issued. It was certainly written about in 1881 in the book “Handbuch des Schiess-Sport” by Friedrich Brandeis which includes an illustration of the pistol. Discussing its lineage with John Griffiths, the author of The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, he can roughly date that this variant was last advertised in 1898 from a Bonehill wholesale catalogue. [33]

Eisenwerke Gaggenau Trademark

In 1895, Eisenwerke Gaggenau registered a trademark in Germany. The trademark was two crossed Flürscheim air pistols, usually with the letter “E” above and “G” below. Strangely, a few years earlier in 1891, Augustus Charles Argles registered the same trademark in England. His Argles Arms and Manufacturing Company was known to be selling Gem-type airguns around that time which may have been those produced by Eisenwerke Gaggenau. It is quite possible that he was a distributor for Eisenwerke Gaggenau. There is at least one MF pistol marked with the crossed pistol trademark and is fitted with the T-bar cocking handle. Any pistols marked with this brand could be considered to be manufactured from circa 1891 or 1895 onwards. [34][35]

The variant of the MF with screw on T-bar handle was then seen in a Bastmann’s Swedish catalogue from 1900 and the MF was no longer listed in the Eisenwerke Gaggenau catalogue of 1902. The pistol is not seen any of John’s many German catalogues after the Swedish 1900 catalogue. However, in the British 1925/26 Webster’s catalogue of Sporting Guns, Fishing Tackle and Accessories, a new variant makes an appearance. This is the much plainer variant known as the Dare Devil Dinkum which was made in Belgium. Whether the MF or the Dare Devil Dinkum was made between 1900 and 1926 it is not known at this time. [36]

A view of the right hand side of the MF showing the intricate floral decoration and chequered grip which were all part of a single iron casting.

The pistol fits very well in the hand. The curved grip cups the bottom of the hand nicely. The weight is good as you would expect for a cast iron pistol. The trigger adjustment screw works a treat, allowing you to fine tune the let off point. The sear spring ensures that there is no play in the trigger but at the same time there is no feel for when the trigger will release the piston.

Target time!

Of course I couldn’t resist popping off a few shots at a target. The .177 darts fit snugly into the breech and cocking is easy without the need to screw the cocking aid to a table. Perhaps this was intended for junior shooters.

However, the power was low. So much so that some shots would bounce off a cork board and dropped a good inch over just a few yards. Perhaps with a leather piston seal it would perform better. Unfortunately, it appears that the inability to easily change the piston seal is probably the pistol’s Achilles heel. Using a suitable size pipe with sharpened edge, I crafted a new seal from a leather belt that I bought from a second-hand store. However, as I didn’t want to damage the pistol, the hot-melt glue was not sufficient enough to keep the seal attached to the piston head.

a personal connection

On a personal note, I have found researching the origins of this pistol fascinating. The sheer number of references that I have been able to draw upon is a testament to the importance and influence of Eisenwerke Gaggenau, Michael Flürscheim and Theodor Bergmann to the German industry and its airguns. I have also developed a small personal connection with this pistol. Flürscheim’s grandson, Charles, lived as a boy at Farnborough at the time of Samuel Cody, a wild west showman and pioneer of British aviation. It was through watching Cody that Charles developed his passion for engineering. I also started my engineering career at the site, but not the time, of Cody’s test flights. It was an exciting period of my life of which I have fond memories. To discover that a relative of the designer of such a special air pistol in Jimmie Dee’s collection is so closely connected to myself gives me a great sense of honour.

 

Until next time, happy shooting!

Jimmie Dee

 

References:

  1. Michael Flürscheim, Wikipedia, English edition
  2. Michael Flürscheim, Wikipedia, German edition
  3. Henry George, Wikipedia, English edition
  4. Georgism, Wikipedia, English edition
  5. Death of Frankfurt Banker, AJR Information Vol. XX No. 1, January 1965, Pg. 2, Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain
  6. Scientific American, Vol. XXVIII, No. 15, April 12th 1873, Pg. 235
  7. Historical Currency Converter, Rodney Edvinsson (Associate Professor, Stockholm University, Pro Futura Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study)
  8. History of Ironworks Gaggenau, Murgtal-Chronik.de
  9. U.S. Patent 136,739, “Improvement in Automatic Gas-Lighting Apparatus”, F. Korwan, March 11th 1873, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  10. The Engineer, Nov. 28th 1873, Pg. 358
  11. German Patent DE3960, “Neuerungen und Luftpistolen”, Michael Flürscheim, July 3rd 1878, German Patent and Trademark Office
  12. Biography Michael Flürscheim – industry pioneer and social reformer, December 21st, 2013, Murgtal-Chronik.de
  13. Scientific American, Vol. XXXI, No.8, August 22nd 1874, Pg. 120
  14. Germany’s Henry George, The New York Times, July 21, 1889
  15. Oral-History: Charles Flürscheim, Engineering and Technology History Wiki
  16. The Bergmann Pistols, Ed Buffaloe
  17. Benjamin Haviland, George P. Gunn and the “Morse” Air Pistol (1872 – c. 1881), Jimmie Dee’s Airguns
  18. Henry Marcus Quackenbush and the Quackenbush Model 1 Air Rifle (mfd. 1876 to 1938), Jimmie Dee’s Airguns
  19. Gas, Air, and Spring Guns of the World, First Edition by W.H.B. Smith, Pg 36
  20. British Patent GB189311509, “Improvements in or connected with Breech Loading Small Arms”, Theodor Bergmann, November 4th 1893, European Patent Office
  21. The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, John Griffiths, ISBN 978-0-95595-160-2
  22. U.S. Patent 547,454, “Recoil-Operated Firearm”, Louis Schmeisser assigned to Theodor Bergmann, October 8th 1895, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  23. Theodor Bergmann, Wikipedia, English Edition
  24. Canada Patent CA104229, “Firearm”, Louis Schmeisser assigned to Rheinische Metallwaren und Maschinenfabrik, March 19th 1907, European Patent Office
  25. Haenel Model 26 and 28 Air Pistol, Jimmie Dee’s Airguns
  26. Gaggenau Notes to Editors, Gaggenau
  27. U.S. Patent 176,003, “Improvement in Spring Air-Pistols”, Iver Johnson and Martin Bye, April 11th 1876, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  28. U.S. Patent 126,954, “Improvement in Toy-Pistols”, Benjamin Haviland and George P. Gunn, May 21st 1872, United States Patent And Trademark Office
  29. Benjamin Haviland, George P. Gunn and the “Morse” Air Pistol (1872 to c. 1881), Jimmie Dee’s Airguns
  30. U.S. Patent 113,766, “Improvement in Parlor Air-Pistols”, Benjamin Haviland and George P. Gunn, April 18th 1871, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  31. U.S. Patent 179,984, “Improvement in spring air-pistols”, G. A. Walker, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  32. L’histoire des brevets, Invention Europe
  33. Handbuch des Schiess-Sport, Friedrich Brandeis, 1881, ISBN: 978-3-84609-898-1
  34. Eisenwerke Gaggenau MF, The Vintage Airgun Gallery
  35. John Atkins discusses the Eisenwerke Gaggenau trademark in Airgunner magazine, August 2010
  36. Airgun section of Webster’s Catalogue of Sporting Guns, Fishing Tackle and Accessories, Trev’s Airgun Scrapbook

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